Written by Kate Smoliakova, Product Manager
It's really nice when you or your stakeholders are seeking ways to foster creativity, encourage collaboration, and drive innovation.
One popular method to achieve these goals is through hosting a hackathon for your project. Hackathons have gained significant popularity across various industries as a powerful tool for problem-solving, ideation, and driving technological advancements.
Why host a hackathon?
Hackathons create an environment that encourages participants to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions to complex problems.
Collaborative problem-solving is a hallmark of hackathons. When participants from various backgrounds, skill sets, and expertise come together, they collaborate, share knowledge, and leverage each other's strengths even if they work individually. This collaborative atmosphere often leads to the development of more robust and well-rounded solutions.
Boosts Employee Morale and Engagement
Hosting a hackathon supports employee creativity and engagement. Hackathons offer participants the opportunity to work on passion projects, explore new technologies, and showcase their skills. This can significantly boost morale and create a sense of belonging within the project team. And for sure get praise and earn some kudos.
Rapid Prototyping and Proof of Concepts
With the intense time constraints of a hackathon, participants are motivated to quickly develop prototypes and proof of concepts. This rapid iteration process helps identify potential flaws or challenges early on and allows for rapid feedback and improvement.
How to organize a hackathon
Start by clearly defining the objectives and outcomes you want to achieve through the hackathon. Identify specific problem areas or challenges that participants should focus on during the event.
Solo Brainstorming: create a board (Figjam, Miro and etc.) and ask the team to fill it with their own ideas (give at least 2 days).
Team Brainstorming: organize brainstorming sessions to discuss added ideas, generate the new ones and make decisions on the final list of ideas (it could be an Excel doc).
Ask your stakeholders to contribute to the list of ideas (it could help with clarifying stakeholders vision and expectations).
Pick a list of topics and confirm with stakeholders if needed, and assign team members or allow the team to decide if there is such an option.
Supplementary benefit: you and your stakeholders get a list of ideas for future enhancements in addition
Set a Date and Duration
Determine the date and duration of the hackathon. Consider factors such as participant availability, project deadlines, and any necessary preparation time.
Organize Hackathon on the last week of the quarter, while you or your stakeholders are involved in the quarterly board meetings, and the team has only stabilization stuff in the scope.
You can decide to conduct a 1-day or 2-day Hackathon during regular workdays — depends on chosen topics, availability and results expectations. The primary focus could be solely on the hackathon scope; however, in the event of an emergency, the team can have the flexibility to shift attention to addressing hotfixes.”
Create a Hackathon Manifest or Rules set
A manifest or set of rules provides clear guidelines and expectations for participants, organizers, and judges. It helps establish a common understanding of the hackathon's purpose, goals, and acceptable behavior, fostering a focused and productive environment.
This document could contain:
Duration and schedule (include Demo day)
Prize and Recognition
Plan Judging and Prizes
Define the criteria for evaluating the hackathon projects. Involve key stakeholders, or subject matter experts, as judges. Offer attractive prizes or incentives to motivate participants and recognize their achievements.
While prizes can incentivize participants and foster competitiveness, it is important to acknowledge that in certain instances, they may only result in superficial motivation.
Instead, alternative approaches such as public praise, official feedback from stakeholders, and incorporating the winner’s achievements into the Roadmap can often yield more meaningful and lasting motivation. These methods not only recognize individual accomplishments but also contribute to the overall success and progress of the project.
Focus your attention on feedback and reflection. Encourage participants to provide their feedback and reflections on the hackathon experience. Gather insights on what worked well and what could be improved to enhance future hackathon events.
Document key lessons learned from the hackathon, including both successes and areas for improvement. Identify best practices that emerged and recommend their adoption for future hackathons or similar projects.
Walk through key points:
Goals and Objectives: Evaluate whether the goals and objectives set for the hackathon were clear, realistic, and aligned with the overall project or organizational objectives.
Team Dynamics: Assess the effectiveness of team collaboration, communication, and coordination during the hackathon. Identify any challenges or areas for improvement in team dynamics.
Technical Challenges: Document any technical difficulties or roadblocks encountered during the hackathon. Identify the root causes of these challenges and propose solutions or strategies to overcome them in future hackathons.
Innovation and Creativity: Evaluate the level of innovation and creativity demonstrated during the hackathon. Identify successful ideas, features, or solutions that emerged and consider how they can be further developed or integrated into future projects.
Organizing a hackathon for your project can be a transformative experience, driving innovation, collaboration, employee engagement, demonstrating product knowledge, and stakeholders recognition.
By setting clear objectives, providing support, and creating a stimulating environment, you can unlock the potential of your team and generate groundbreaking ideas. Embrace the power of hackathons to propel your project toward success in an ever-evolving world.